Jul 062016

Evening out, or just chatting in a hostel. Meeting new people, making good connections with the others. A beer or two, easy talk, a stupid joke or maybe even a good one. People laugh, you have a good time.
Finally we introduce ourselves. One does that and another one something else. You ask a question or two, either to pretend to be interested for the sake of your own speech that is about to follow, or because you actually care to know the people you’ve just met on your journey.

Finally, your turn comes. Either you started talking directly, or you patiently waited for the right question that is bound to come in this evening conversation: “And what do you do back home?”

20160706_172200“I’m a writer.”

“A writer? My gosh! I have never met a writer in person! What kind of books do you write?

Touching the screen of your mobile phone, you show them your blog, and your book page on Amazon. You talk, they listen.
Should they have their kindles with them, they may order your masterpiece immediately. And if not, an original business card you take out from your pocket (because you always carry a few of them) ensures they will not forget on your book until tomorrow, when new evening will bring new connections and thoughts. A life of a traveler. . . .

Struggling to get it out

It sounds easy on paper, and yet I struggled. I struggled to say “I’m a writer” when the moment for this sentence arrived. And even if I said that, I preferred to not elaborate on it, or I said that I wrote books in my native language only.

I don’t drink alcohol, and I can’t make a good joke most of the time. But these details did not hamper my efforts to promote the University of Solitude.
Making a good connection with someone has never troubled me, drinking plays no role in it, since I am honestly interested in people I meet while traveling. They fascinate me- the way they think, talk, live, what they believe into and why they believe into it.

I struggled to promote the book simply because I hate losing my “anonymity”. My story is strong. . . . Six months in prison, death sentence hanging in the air, unwitting espionage for the CIA … 40 days in solitary confinement, personal transformation, stories of fellow prisoners.

Immediately I’m the one in the spotlight. The conversation goes on and on, and we talk just about my story and experiences from prison. All other topics have died away quickly.

Even though you may think that this is the point we tried to reach right from the beginning of the conversation, the contrary is true.
Since we talk about me, and my story only, I lose an opportunity to learn about the others and their lives, and more importantly about their ideas and perspectives on living, something that interests me greatly, especially when I travel and meet people from different regions, people having all kind of lives, backgrounds, and religions. The second best school ever, after the solitary confinement. 🙂
But when I am the one who talks and answers questions about my imprisonment, I will learn nothing new from the others (even though you may learn something also from the questions they ask you). I prefer to be the one who listens, the one who asks the questions.


Life of a backpacker

What’s more, the label of the guy who spent six months in Iranian prison and faced charges of espionage is one tough to shake off. It doesn’t normally happen, and so literally people will talk about me, and always connect my person with this story.
That means losing my status of a backpacker, a common guy who loves to travel and talk to strangers, a guy who loves to study the world, and try to understand people who form our present and shape our future.

After every role I had and all the things I tired in my life, and there were many, I like the role of a backpacker the most. Man who carries all he needs for living on his back, not carrying for any other possession, man who feels home everywhere and nowhere.

That’s the life I want to live while traveling. I don’t want to be an entrepreneur, a writer, a philosopher, or whatever else in the eyes of the others. When traveling, I simply want to be a student of life. A backpacker with an open mind and an open heart. Other details are not important.


All depends on the book you wrote

Maybe a month later, when we will be all back home, or traveling and discovering some other miracles of the world, I will send an email to the people I’ve met on this journey in Portugal and Spain. Well, I will email them much earlier, but it will take me some time until I share my story with them.
I won’t need my anonymity anymore, and they can definitely benefit from the lessons I learned while locked up in Iran. But I just can’t do it while still traveling—that’s something I have learned on this journey. It just doesn’t suit me…
If I wrote a travel guide, a cooking book, or possibly a novel, I would likely not struggle to talk about my work, and I would use every opportunity to promote my book. But with a true story that happened to me, the story is different :)…

So, talking about marketing, I haven’t done that much during my journey.
I actually offered just one “business card”. It happened in a group meeting (a good friend of mine who I’ve been staying with for a few days in Arzua invited me to a regular Thursday evening gathering of his English speaking friends). He told them beforehand that I was coming, and everybody knew that I was imprisoned in Iran. That changed the situation quite a bit.

But while I gave out just one “business card”, I brought back home ten “business cards”, or email addresses of people I met, learned something from, and connected with on this journey. That matters, regardless of whether they ever find out about my story.

Anyway, I’ve been doing business long enough to understand that success in marketing, and especially in networking, isn’t measured by the number of business cards you give to other people. It is measured by the number of business cards you get from other people.

Most people will throw your business cards away, they will forget about you sooner, or later. There are always new people to meet and talk too… But once you have their contact details, their business cards, you can always get in touch with them and refer to the connection you made on your journey. You can contact them one week later, one month later, one year later.

Seeing the broader context of things, I might actually do something for the marketing of the book. . . .


Changes to our campaign

I managed to finalize a few important changes in June, before I left for Portugal and Spain.

I moved the blog section to a new subdomain, blog.universityofsolitude.com, since the original blog was difficult to navigate. The new theme offers clean layout, it is more “blog-like”, with an easy option to move from one post to another. It also displays information about me and the purpose for starting the blog (on a sidebar visible all the time), plus an option to subscribe to the newsletter.
After all, you are reading the blog right now, so you should notice everything I just described :).

The changes should result in a better interaction with the readers of the blog (once we get some readers).

An option to listen to the first chapter from the book has also been added to the main page. My good friend Michal Kramar, singer and a creative artist (ankramu.com, misokramar.com) lent his voice to my words.
Visitors who prefer listening to reading can enjoy his native-like accent and intonation (ten times better than my accent and intonation), and listen to the excerpt from the book instead of reading it.

I’ve also made a couple of minor design changes, reflecting on the poor readability of introduction text on mobile devices.
I changed the background picture slightly, and moved some elements to new positions on the landing page. All texts should now be easily and comfortably readable on any device (think kindle, mobile, tablet, television, small laptop, etc).

Do you wonder how your website looks like on different devices, and if mobile visitors actually can read your content? And have you (or a web design company you hired) optimized the website for mobile devices?

You can check it out for free here: http://quirktools.com/screenfly/ .
And if you wonder whether it actually matters, read this article: http://www.smartinsights.com/mobile-marketing/mobile-marketing-analytics/mobile-marketing-statistics/ (if you don’t want to kill time reading it, just trust me that the percentage of consumers who use their mobile phones to browse the internet it high enough, actually more than 50% , but the number varies from one niche to another. . . .)


Marketing plans for the summer

During the months of July, August, and September, we’ll focus mostly on promoting the book on Google.com. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Trying to rank our own website and blog for keywords that report decent regular monthly searches on Google.com
  • Benefiting from the position of other websites that already rank on the top of Google for relevant search terms (I’ll explain this later)
  • Buying new domains, or trying to acquire existing domains that may bring recurring targeted traffic to our website
  • Experimenting with paid advertising on Google.com

I’ll write about every one of these marketing strategies in detail in the next posts, while we will try and apply them to our campaign.

Getting traffic from Google is a tedious work, and it requires both skill and patience. On the other hand, visitors from Google convert better than visitors from any other traffic source, since you offer people information they searched for (instead of just trying to convince them to check what you have to say). That’s a huge difference. . .

And we speak about recurring traffic, which isn’t the case for Reddit or Facebook. Once you rank for a keyword, for example “training a six month old dog”, new people will visit your website every day… Every day somebody searches for this information on Google, trying to learn how to train their dog that has just reached six months of age.
That’s the traffic worth fighting for, and I hope we will achieve to gain it together, doesn’t matter if it takes us three months, or a year…

Some statistics from the last four weeks

Half of the visitors browsed our website on a mobile phone

Half of the visitors browsed our website on their mobile phones, or on their tablets


We already have some organic visitors from Google, which wasn't the case back in May. We didn't have virtually any visitors from social media in the last four weeks, what confirms my opinion that social traffic isn't and can't be, recurring traffic.

We already have some organic visitors from Google, which wasn’t the case back in May. We didn’t have virtually any visitors from social media in the last four weeks, what confirms my opinion that social traffic isn’t and can’t be a truly recurring traffic.



Direct marketing (talking to people about your book, ideally one-to-one meetings) will always be the most effective marketing strategy. However, the success is not measured by the number of business cards you give out, but by the number of cards you get from other people.

Optimize your website for mobile traffic. If the visitors struggle to read the content, or navigate the page, they will leave and never come back. The percentage of mobile traffic is way too high to be ignored.

Targeted traffic from Google converts better than any other traffic. What’s more, Google is by far the most visited website in the world. You should learn and try different methods of promoting your book on Google, and you should base your long-term strategy on the recurring traffic from this search engine, and on building your personal brand as a writer.

That’s it for now. Have a great week, spend some time in the nature, and take care for both your body and mind. I will be back with the new post next week.


Written by Matej Valuch

Matej Valuch

Having succeeded in building residual income from the network of content-rich websites, Matej currently devotes nearly all his time to non-profit projects, mostly in the spheres of philosophy, start-up, and writing. Sharing real marketing studies and experiments with his audience, Matej tries to help other writers and marketers to succeed with their projects.

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